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'Requiem for lives lost': Making music from Mexico's guns

In a project that's as much politics as it is performance, a Mexico City-based artist teams with musicians to remold the metal from thousands of firearms into working instruments.

This wind instrument lived a whole other life. David Franco, via Pedro Reyes

That crazy-looking flute in the above picture? Chances are it was a weapon in Mexico's drug war.

Or parts of it were, at least. Now those pieces make up one of 50 working musical instruments engineered from confiscated Mexican revolvers, shotguns, and machine guns that were once scheduled for public destruction.

Mexico City-based artist Pedro Reyes conceived of the project, titled "Imagine," as a statement on widespread gun violence in the country.

"A group of six musicians worked for two weeks shoulder-to-shoulder turning these agents of death into instruments of life," Reyes says on his site.

"It's difficult to explain, but the transformation was more than physical. It's important to consider that many lives were taken with these weapons; as if a sort of exorcism was taking place the music expelled the demons they held, as well as being a requiem for lives lost."

As we've previously seen with instruments made from dumpster trash and vintage luggage, music can come from unlikely places. The "Imagine" instruments originated from a 2008 venture by Reyes called "Palas por Pistolas," which invited the public to exchange firearms for vouchers and electric appliances. After 1,527 weapons were collected, crushed, melted, and remolded into the same number of shovels, art institutions and public schools used those shovels to plant 1,527 trees.

Upon learning of that effort, Reyes said, government officials contacted him about using the metal from more than 6,000 weapons set to be publicly destroyed earlier this year in Mexico's notoriously dangerous Cuidad Juarez. At points during the last several years, the city has been called the most violent zone in the world outside of declared war zones, with much of that violence related to drugs and gangs.

Have a look at some of the homemade instruments in our gallery above and then listen to a performance of an "Imagine" cover of the eponymous Beatles song in the video below. It doesn't take much imagination to hear that some of the scrappy instruments sound remarkably like their more traditional peers.

Imagine from Pedro Reyes on Vimeo.

(Via You The Designer)